Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Discussion on 1 Peter 3:19

Paul J. Achtemeier has a very thorough discussion on 1 Pet. 3:19 in his commentary on Peter's First Epistle that you can find in the Hermeneia series. He carefully reviews the explanations that have been posited vis-a'-vis 1 Pet. 3:19 and he then writes: "There is a clear Jewish tradition, however, in which the angelic beings of Gen. 6:1-6, whose disobedience caused the flood, were subsequently imprisoned" (Achtemeier 256). He adds: "That it is this tradition which underlies the reference to 'spirits' in our verse seems therefore likely to be the case" (256).

So while Achtemeier is not really dogmatic about the identity of the spirits in 1 Pet. 3:19--he does suggest that the view which I have advanced is probably the least problematic approach.

My questions to you would be, what is the point of introducing angels at 3:19, and what was Jesus accomplishing by going to a special group of angels already in prison?

According to the discourse structure or context of 1 Pet. 3:19, there are a number of good reasons why Peter introduced the wicked spirits or angels in his discussion. Keep in mind that Peter is trying to show his brothers and sisters why they should suffer for the sake of righteousness (1 Pet. 3:16,17). In 3:18, he employs the example of Christ as a (the) model for all Christian believers. Since Christ suffered and subsequently died for our sins, though he was and is righteous, and since his ignominious and painful death opened the way for humans to approach God with a clean conscience, since he was also put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit and in this state (as the NWT says) he went and assured the angels of their doom--we too should suffer as Christ did and desist from sins, while asking God for a good conscience by being baptized in water through the resurrection of Christ from the dead (1 Pet. 3:18-4:1, 2). So the example of the fallen angels helps us to see the consequences of apostatizing from God. The mention of these rebellious spirits also impresses on us the fact that the waters of baptism (the antitype of the flood) can either serve as a salvific step to those who avail themselves of this godly provision. But baptism will not profit those who refuse to be immersed through the resurrection of Christ. Achtemeier thus suggests that Peter employs the story about the angels so that "Christians can face their future with confidence, despite whatever suffering that future may portend, because Christ has triumphed over the most powerful forces of the universe. The salvation Christ promises is therefore sure, and confidence in that Lord can sustain Christians until the final judgment, whose coming is sure and whose advent will rescue Christians from their tormented lives" (Achtemeier 246).

[Edgar continued]
As I will show later, KHRUSSW does not always refer to proclaiming the Gospel.

I said that it does so when Jesus is used with it, that is when he is the
one doing it in the NT. I did not say that it always referred to
proclaiming the Gospel.

In your message dated 00-11-26 17:15:20 EST, you wrote: "i think of Jesus' preaching as positive because the Greek word kerussw, when used with Jesus in the NT, always has a positive connotation of a preaching of the Gospel."

But please notice that Jesus himself evidently used the word KHRUGMA to describe the message that Jonah preached to the men of Nineveh (Matt. 12:41; Lk. 11:32). The LXX also has KHRUSSW at Jonah 1:2 in delineating Jonah's message of doom. Achtemeier concludes that KHRUSSW "does not automatically mean that the content of the proclamation is forgiveness or salvation" (262).

Another work states: "In 1 Peter 3:19 there is no reference to evangelizing, but to the act of Christ, after his resurrection, in proclaiming His victory to fallen spirits"(Zodhiates, Complete Word Study: NT, page 928).


aservantofJehovah said...

If 1Peter3:19 is to be properly understood as speaking of Jesus' preaching to the spirits of the dead.Why does he confine this preaching to those who were disobedient to the preaching of Noah?Why no word to those who died before or since the time of Noah?Why no word of encouragement for the faithful dead?

Edgar Foster said...

In going through some of my old mail, I just noticed this comment on my blog post. But the best explanation (it seems) is that Christ preached to the demonic spirits (wicked angels) and not to "the spirits of the dead." That is a point made by Achtemeier among others.